© Reuters. Bank of England Deputy Governor Ben Broadbent attends a Bank of England news conference, in the City of London

By David Milliken and Andy Bruce

LONDON (Reuters) – The Bank of England would need significant news to alter the pace of its purchases of British government bonds, which are part of its response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Deputy Governor Ben Broadbent said on Wednesday.

Earlier this month, the BoE said it planned to maintain the pace of its gilt buying at 4.44 billion pounds ($6.26 billion) per week to reach its target of holding 875 billion pounds of gilts by the around end of the year.

The purchases are from a 150 billion pound expansion to the BoE’s quantitative easing programme announced in November, when a resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a new national lockdown.

“I think it would take significant news for us to change that pace. My expectation – not a promise – is that we would maintain it roughly as it is,” Broadbent told parliament’s Treasury Committee of lawmakers.

Governor Andrew Bailey told the same hearing it was possible that the BoE could reduce the pace of gilt purchases.

“My view: the decision would hang on several things, it would hang on the outlook for the economy, but it would also particularly hang on market functioning,” Bailey said.

With the government issuing gilts at a record pace to help fund its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the BoE finding no shortage of investors willing part with these bonds, some economists say Britain is conducting monetary finance by any other name.

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“Let me … knock on the head any suggestion that we’re conducting so-called monetary finance – we’re not,” Bailey said.

“But there is a relationship between the stock of gilts that we can purchase and what we can do.”

($1 = 0.7094 pounds)

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